Can You Read Books on Your Podcast? (Avoid Copyright Issues)

by | Start a Podcast

Reading books on a podcast is a hot topic, especially with all the changes to classroom education since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the legality of reading books on a podcast can be murky.

If you want to read books on a podcast, you need to either own the rights to the work or use public domain books. Podcasters can read small excerpts from copyrighted materials with the protection of fair use laws. For example, podcasts that center on book reviews may read small passages to comment on the content of a book. Something to have in mind before starting a podcast centered around this.

Related: Start a Podcast People Will Listen To [2023 Guide]

How Do You Avoid Copyright Issues on a Podcast?

The safest way to avoid penalties for copyright infringement is to read public-domain books on your podcast. “Public domain” is a term used to describe creative works that are no longer covered by copyright laws. Since the author no longer owns these works, they are owned by the public.

Since these works can be used freely and without permission, they are a goldmine of material for a podcast looking to read books.

Although the author’s work may be public domain, it’s important to avoid using a copyrighted anthology in your podcast. For example, reading a play by Shakespeare is fine. However, reading through his works and the editorial notes included in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works would be a violation of copyright law. These collections are protected by copyright law because of the editorial creativity used to create the finished work.

How do you tell if a work is in the public domain? Works become public domain when the original copyright expires or when the copyright owner fails to properly renew their copyright. They may also become public domain if the author dedicates the work to the public domain, forfeiting their right to copyright the material.

Related: How To Copyright A Podcast

Can You Read Copyrighted Material on a Podcast?

Can You Read Books on Your Podcast?

Can You Read Books on Your Podcast?

People have many misconceptions about how copyright law applies to podcasting. If you intend to read copyrighted books on your podcast, it’s important to understand how copyright law applies to your production.

First, it’s important to remember that you cannot use any amount of copyrighted material without permission. Many people wrongfully believe that sharing a short portion of a copyrighted work is okay, as long as they don’t use much. However, you may only read a portion of a copyrighted book on your podcast if it falls under “fair use” law or you’ve purchased the rights to share it.

Second, you should remember that offering credit is not a replacement for securing the right permissions. Many podcasters believe that it’s okay to read portions of a book as long as they credit the original author. However, credit does not replace the proper permissions when it comes to copyrighted material.

Finally, you cannot use copyrighted material, even if you’re not making money from your podcast. Unfortunately, too many people believe that it’s okay to share copyrighted material as long as they aren’t making money. However, you can still violate copyright law if you’re reading books on a podcast you have no intention to monetize.

If you plan to read from a copyrighted book on your podcast, you must purchase the rights to reproduce their work.

How Much of a Book Can You Read on a Podcast?

“Fair use” is a term used to describe the right to use copyrighted material (like a book) without first obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Section 107 of the Copyright Act allows individuals and institutions to use copyrighted material “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, [and] teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, or research).”

Does this mean that your podcast use is “fair use,” as long as your podcast is educational in nature? Not exactly.

Fair use can be tricky, so it is evaluated on a case-by-case basis using four factors:

  • How the copyrighted material is being used (whether it’s for commercial or nonprofit educational use)
  • The copyrighted work’s nature
  • How much of the work is being used
  • How the use impacts the value of the copyrighted work

While you may theoretically be able to fly under the radar while reading copyrighted books in your podcast, you could end up with some hefty legal troubles down the road. Using public domain books is the safest way to keep yourself from legal troubles, even if your podcast is only a hobby.


Reading books on your podcast is not always legally permissible. While public domain books leave podcasters with plenty of legal options for reading, you cannot use copyrighted books for your podcast content.

There are a few common misconceptions concerning what is and isn’t legal when sharing copyrighted content on a podcast. Whether you’re reading a chapter or an entire work, it’s crucial to obtain the proper permissions. Even if podcasting is a nonprofit hobby, fair use laws won’t necessarily cover this use.

Related: What Makes a Bad Podcast & How to Avoid Making One

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